A prehistoric beast is unleashed from its icy tomb by a nuclear test that is conducted in the Arctic. The only witness, a brilliant physicist, tries to convince the military and top scientists of the creature's existence, but his stories are laughed off as the ravings of a madman. More rumors begin to surface as the giant lizard travels south along the Atlantic, and the professor is finally able to gain the support he needs in order to stop the beast, but not before the beast reaches New York City on its path of destruction!
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is the first combined effort between two of Science Fiction's most brilliant artists: writer Ray Bradbury and special effects master Ray Harryhausen. The two would start off on their long road together with this low-budget monster movie, directed by Eugene Lourie. Both men shared a love for 1925's THE LOST WORLD that would permanently shape each of their individual careers, and which can clearly be seen all throughout the film. BEAST would also be Harryhausen's first feature-length opportunity to display his own spectacular stop-motion animation in a series of stunning effects sequences that mirror the works of his mentor and colleague, Willis O'Brien (KING KONG). The Beast's rampage through downtown Manhattan has become one of the defining moments in Science Fiction cinema as a result, effortlessly blending Harryhausen's effects with the live-action events on-screen.
The story line from THE BEAST can also be recognized in countless Science Fiction and Fantasy films from the 1950's and 60's, where both the country's leading scientists and military officials must team up to destroy a common threat. This, and the socio-political subtext surrounding nuclear testing, would have an immediate effect on the Nuclear Era, most notably in THEM! and GOJIRA from the following year. Paul Hubschmid's charming and charismatic scientist serves as a strong lead, with many enjoyable moments also coming out of Cecil Kellaway's performance as the reluctant professor.
THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS is an important milestone in the Science Fiction and Horror genres, and one that would help to shape the Giant Monster movie for decades after its release.
If you liked THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS, check out:
KING KONG, GOJIRA, THEM!